Trump spends most of Ypsilanti Ford facility visit maskless, OKs Midland emergency declaration

By: - May 21, 2020 6:17 pm

President Donald Trump at the Ford plant in Ypsilanti, May 21, 2020 | White House video screenshot

President Donald Trump toured the Ford Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti Thursday afternoon without wearing a mask for most of the time, despite a requirement under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order and Ford’s safety policy.

Trump, who has frequently attacked the media, said he did not want to give reporters “the pleasure” of seeing him with a mask on. 

Executive Order 2020-77 prohibited manufacturing companies to host tours and outside visitors once they opened back up earlier this month, but Whitmer waived the order for Trump’s visit. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

However, state officials like Attorney General Dana Nessel still strongly urged everyone inside the facility to follow guidelines set by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“While my Department will not act to prevent you from touring Ford’s plant, I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford — and across this State — by wearing a facial covering,” Nessel wrote in a letter to the president Wednesday. “It is not just the policy of Ford. By virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders, it is currently the law of this State.”

Ford released a statement saying that the company’s executive chair, Bill Ford, encouraged the president to wear a mask during his visit, but only he obliged during a private viewing of three Ford GTs. Ford noted that Trump did not wear his mask for the rest of his visit. 

The president has yet to be seen wearing a mask on camera. Earlier this month toured a mask-making factory in Arizona and a medical supply distribution center in Pennsylvania without a mask.

“If we’ve learned nothing over the last several years of President Trump in the White House, it’s that he doesn’t have the same level of legal accountability as everybody else,” Nessel said on CNN Thursday morning. “Honestly, if he fails to wear a mask, he’s going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facilities inside our state.”

Nessel also said that her office will take action against any company or facility that allows Trump inside “and puts our workers at risk.”

“We simply can’t afford it here in our state,” she added. 

Michigan continues to see COVID-19 numbers rise, with 53,510 positive cases and 5,129 deaths caused by the disease, as of Thursday at 3 p.m.

Trump was greeted at Detroit Metro Airport Thursday afternoon by state House Speaker Lee Chatfiled (R-Levering) and Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise, both of whom wore masks.

Trump approves Midland emergency declaration 

On top of the COVID-19 crisis in Michigan, the state is now facing historic flooding in Midland County. 

Following his visit at the Ford facility, Trump declared a state of emergency in Midland County and announced he will send the state federal aid.

The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief to alleviate “the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures.”

Whitmer said this is a “good start,” but is still “hopeful that the federal government will soon approve the full funding request to help Michigan families rebuild after this natural disaster.”

The emergency declaration allows for 75% of the direct federal assistance to be covered by federal funding.

“We’re going to take care of your problem,” Trump said during his Ford visit. “And at the appropriate time, I’ll go and see the area that we’ll be fixing. We’re going to help you out.”

Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County late Tuesday night after excessive rain and the failure of two dams in the area caused massive flooding. With her declaration, she activated the National Guard and ordered about 10,000 people to evacuate the affected area. 

The governor said at a press conference Thursday morning that she sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday requesting the emergency declaration and said that she and the president spoke on the phone about the flood.

Trump told the crowd at the Ford plant that the call with Whitmer was “great.”

“It was a brief call, but we did talk about what was happening in Midland. He asked a few questions about if there have been casualties, he asked about the extent of the damage,” Whitmer said. “He said the federal government will do whatever they can to help us.”

However, on Tuesday Trump was critical of Whitmer’s stay-home order for COVID-19 during the flood, and tweeted that she “must now ‘set you free’ to help.”

Whitmer has urged the roughly 10,000 impacted people to evacuate and stay with family or in shelters.

Trump and the Democratic governor have had a contentious relationship throughout the COVID-19 crisis and have clashed on multiple occasions over federal aid, like personal protection equipment and ventilators,  to assist Michigan as it remains a hotspot for the disease.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.